I’m an an editor at The New York Times for narrative, investigative and enterprise projects. Previously I was a wayfaring writer, editor and photographer for The Wall Street Journal, covering South Asia, and before that a Page One editor at the Journal responsible for narratives and interactives such as this one. I edited the WSJ’s project on the end of privacy, a Pulitzer finalist.

Some people call this “long form” but there’s a better word for it. Storytelling.

I’ve lived and worked as a journalist in New York, New Delhi (twice), Hong Kong and small-town America, where my family published a century-old newspaper.

Nice things have been said by nice people from Boingboing, Human Rights Watch, the Annals of Improbable Research, the Museum of Modern Art and even planet Twitter. The Dalai Lama hands out one of my stories, sometimes.


At The New York Times I work with reporters and editors in the Business Day section to develop enterprise, investigative and narrative work. Previously, I wrote my own news articles, features and narrative projects for The Wall Street Journal in and around South Asia. So here’s a piece on Himalayan traffic jams. And one on Cambodia’s handmade bamboo trains (with a video).

I’ve written about:

A candy shop that’s a burn clinic (with photo essay), a bus tragedy (accompanied by this interactive), a young woman set alight (with photo essay) and her family’s dark history, controversial cow-rescuers who forcibly stop cattle trucks and free the animals (with video), nuclear power plants in tsunami zones (with video), a double hanging in a mango tree (with a photo essay), Nepal’s terrible earthquake (with photography), this surreal drill team, India’s accidentally groovy wristwatches, a wicker basket for abandoning babies, one-horsepower taxis (with video), the child-goddesses of the Kathmandu valley (with video) and the men who live under a bridge, by a sacred river, and dive for coins.

In an earlier reporting life, I wrote about:

The world’s fastest ocean liner (with a video). An unusual parade in the American midwest. India’s out-of-date doorknob technology. The slaughter of Nepal’s god-king and royal family. Great Britain’s unhappy mercenaries.

As a Page One editor at The Wall Street Journal I worked on many of the paper’s most ambitious projects. I edited “The Lobotomy Files” and helped to conceive its online interactive design. I edited the Journal’s project on the end of privacy, a Pulitzer finalist. Aside from special undertakings such as these, I edited many narratives and investigations and lots of “A-heds.”

As an editor I’ve worked with brilliant reporters on coverage of:

The veracity of Truman Capote’s masterwork “In Cold Blood.” A man who got a federal criminal record because he mishandled a clogged toilet. A woman’s six-year descent into all-but-incurable tuberculosis. Vietnam's bride kidnappers. America’s housing crisis. Stretch limos that are too long. Midwives who murder babies. A Chinese family’s nightmare. FBI informants who snitch on their girlfriends. Getting naked in Vermont.

In 2013 I edited the WSJ’s portraits of the young woman who was raped and murdered on a bus in New Delhi, and her close friend who was with her during the attack. These accounts of their forbidden affection will tell you more about India today than anything else you’ll read on the subject.

In the early 2000s I was the WSJ’s correspondent in New Delhi, India. I wrote about the September 11, 2001, terror attacks from Islamabad, Pakistan.


Photography by me has shown up in The Wall Street Journal (for example here, here, here and here), Marie Claire, The Daily Beast, dearly departed Newsweek and other publications. My photos have been exhibited at the Exit Art gallery, New York; Photographic Gallery, Front St., New York; Chrystie Street Gallery, Chrystie St., New York; ABC No Rio, Rivington St., New York; the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts; and the Edward Hopper House, Nyack, N.Y.

The most recent photography can be seen at Starve Hollow Road, named for the holler (as it’s pronounced properly) where I grew up.



For all your Jesse Pesta news, there’s always Twitter @jessepesta. Until then:

Oct. 7, 2015: Here’s my first NYT byline, a news-breaking update on the S.S. United States.

Sept. 26, 2015: My first edit for The New York Times is published on the front page. The WSJ would call this kind of fast-turnaround narrative a “crash leder.” At the Times it’s a “heave.” The things you learn.

Sept. 21, 2015: I’ve joined The New York Times as an enterprise and project editor.

January 2015: Xeni Jardin at Boingboing kind of digs the lede on this piece about a surreal yet badass motorcycle stunt team.

September 2014: The Dalai Lama pulls out a copy of this thing that I wrote.

April-June 2014:The Lobotomy Files” is honored by the National Press Club and receives the 2014 Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism. This is the second project I’ve edited to receive Ancil Payne honors: In 2010 (see below) Farnaz Fassihi’s outstanding reporting on Iran, “Hearts, Minds and Blood,” was recognized.

Describing “The Lobotomy Files,” the judges said: “We are particularly impressed with the ethical consciousness” behind the determination to do the story right, “for the man who was still alive.”

March 2014: After six years as a Page One editor, I returned to reporting for the WSJ as a traveling writer with a focus on South Asia.

Oct. 15, 2013: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists honors the Journal’s reporting on tuberculosis with the Daniel Pearl prize, its highest award.

May-July 2013: The Journal’s Page One series on privacy, “Watched,” is honored with the APME’s First Amendment reporting citation for large newspapers and receives the Deadline Club’s Public Service Award. The Journal’s tuberculosis investigation takes the Deadline Club’s science award, too.

Describing the TB project, the judges said: “The series has the potential to save many lives around the world ~ possibly our own.”

October 2012-Spring 2013: Served as master’s program adviser for investigative reporting at the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University’s graduate journalism program for the 2012-13 academic year.

April 16, 2012: “The End of Privacy,” The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the erosion of privacy in the U.S., is named a finalist for the Pulitzer prize in explanatory reporting.

January 2012: The “Federal Offenses” project, exposing the surprising ways in which little-known laws turn Americans into criminals, wins a National Press Foundation award.

Here's a video clip of the investigative writers Gary Fields and John Emshwiller sharing a nice word about their editors.

June 3-Aug. 5, 2011: Selected photos on exhibit at the Exit Art gallery in New York as part of the gallery’s Contemporary Slavery exhibition.

March 26, 2011: Represented The Wall Street Journal in a presentation at Yale Law School to discuss personal privacy and the online advertising business.

Sept. 25, 2010: I spoke about working with Danny Pearl at Music for Humanity, a concert commemorating Danny’ life.

Here’s a video of my remarks. The talking starts about a minute in.

April/May, 2010: The WSJ’s Iran coverage, “Hearts, Minds and Blood,” wins the Society of Professional Journalists award for outstanding foreign correspondence, the Overseas Press Club award for outstanding reporting abroad, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the Payne Award for Ethics.

April 8, 2010: Represented the WSJ on a Nieman Foundation panel on fairness in journalism.

Aug. 12, 1994: My very first “A-hed,” about an interesting parade in southern Indiana, hits the WSJ’s front page.


Jesse @ JessePesta com


Jesse Pesta

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The main portrait is the work of the incomparable Jennifer MacFarlane